The arbitration is the final stage of the grievance process, as described in Article XVIII of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the GEO and the University. When the GEO goes to arbitration, the GEO’s and the University’s lawyers must choose an arbitrator. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services (FMCS) or the American Arbitration Association (AAA) submits 5 possible arbitrators who are members of the National Academy of Arbitrators. The GEO’s and University’s lawyers each eliminate 2 arbitrators; the remaining arbitrator will serve as arbitrator. The University, the GEO, and the arbitrator then select a date and location for the arbitration.
In the arbitration, the arbitrator essentially serves as the judge. The lawyers make oral arguments during the arbitration. The arbitrator asks clarifying questions of the lawyers and any witnesses brought forth. The GEO and the University also provide evidence for the arbitrator to consider when making the decision. After the oral arguments, the lawyers submit written briefs stating their case to the arbitrator. After receiving both briefs, which may be submitted after the actual arbitration, the arbitrator determines which party wins and any remedies. An arbitration decision is a legally-binding decision, meaning that the University must comply with it.
Key Arbitration Decisions
The arbitration decision is available for download as a PDF. Click on the name of the arbitration to download it.
In 2009, when tuition waivers were governed by the Board of Trustees, not the side letter, the Union found out that the Provost’s Office had commissioned a report on how to remedy the “economic crisis” affecting the University. The report recommended that the minimum appointment to receive a tuition waiver be raised from 25% to 33%. This would exclude a substantial portion of the bargaining unit. The GEO went on strike in 2009 to get the University to add the tuition waiver side letter to the contract. Although the side letter was appended to the contract, in 2010, Fine and Applied Arts students were informed that they would not receive waiver unless they had a 33% appointment. The GEO fought this through the grievance process and eventually it made its way to arbitration in 2011. In 2013, the University finally paid Fine and Applied Arts students back for the tuition they had paid, but only after the GEO agreed to sign the new contract in 2012. This was a significant decision because it established the importance of the side letter in protecting tuition waivers for members of the Union.
In 2011, shortly after the FAA victory, the GEO had a more disappointing arbitration. The GEO grieved that hourly employees in the Graduate School of Library and Information Sciences (GSLIS) were essentially working as Graduate Assistants, without protection from the contract. Unfortunately, the arbitrator sided with the University. The arbitrator ruled that the GEO could not prove that the University was intentionally eroding the bargaining unit because of there were graduate assistant positions within GSLIS; additionally, the University argued that the hours for the positions were not going to be consistent or equal to 10 hours a week, meaning it was inappropriate to classify them as graduate assistantships. Although this was not technically a victory for the GEO, it did establish that hourly positions with the same hours and duties as protected assistantships should be classified as assistantships.
In Fall 2014, the GEO discovered that students in the Masters of Computer Science program faced difficulties in obtaining assistantships. Assistantships weren’t offered by their department. In addition, when the students applied for assistantships from other departments, Computer Science asked that department to reimburse their tuition. Thus, instead of receiving a tuition waiver, the employing department would have to pay Computer Science the graduate employee’s tuition. This effectively meant that graduate students were unable to get appointments, even though they were qualified, because the employing department could not afford to hire them. The GEO grieved the decision for over a year. In Fall 2015, the GEO finally went to arbitration. In January 2016, the arbitrator ruled in favor of the GEO. This decision extends the earlier Fogelberg decision and further protects graduate employee tuition waivers. The GEO interprets this decision as invalidating the reimbursement policy in certain programs, further protecting graduate students’ access to waiver-generating appointments.
In Fall 2014 the GEO requested information from the university on appointment letter dates after several reports of very late appointment letters. The university furnished the GEO with a sample of 90 letters from across 10 departments. Of these letters more than 95% were issued late according to language in the collective bargaining agreement (Article IV. Section D). In September 2015 the GEO took this case to arbitration. GEO laid out a case that the university refused to supply additional information after such a large percentage of the sample of letters were late, and also provided evidence of the ways in which late appointment letter affect graduate employees who need to plan their finances and travels, and can experience serious stress waiting on funding decisions. The GEO’s case was sustained by the arbitrator and we continue to act to enforce the decision.